Reprinted with permission from Media Matters
Following the attempt by House Republicans to place members on the January 6 select committee who have not only lied about the 2020 election but openly signaled their intention to undermine the investigation on behalf of former President Donald Trump, mainstream media outlets are engaging in a both-sides narrative. Instead of focusing on the organized Republican efforts to undermine the investigation, they are shifting the blame onto Democrats for somehow not trying hard enough to keep the investigation bipartisan with those very same wreckers.
On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) rejected two out of the five members that Republicans had offered to sit on the committee — to which Republicans replied by declaring they would boycott the committee entirely. (A single Republican remains on the committee, however: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) whom Pelosi had already named.)
Of those two members whom Pelosi rejected, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) had previously met with Trump in late December to confer on strategy to reject the certification of the election results, and declared this week that the committee was "impeachment round 3, this is to go after President Trump" — rather than to investigate a matter of national security. The other, Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), had released a statement accusing the committee of having been formed "solely to malign conservatives and to justify the Left's authoritarian agenda."
Politico Digs In On The Both-Sides Play
This week, Politico echoed the Republican spin and ignored the obvious reality that the Republican committee picks would be set on sabotaging an investigation. The site followed up in its Playbook newsletter Thursday morning, declaring that partisan oversight had hit "a new low," at once acknowledging Republican opposition to the investigation and putting the burden on Democrats to please them.
"When Republicans voted against an outside bipartisan commission to investigate the siege because of what it might turn up in an election year, we called them out for acting in cowardice," the Playbook authors wrote. "But Pelosi's move will make the investigation even easier to dismiss for people who aren't die-hard members of Team Blue."
The newsletter also removed the moral onus from individuals sympathizing with January 6 rioters by declaring, "It also comes as polling for CBS News finds that Republican voters are increasingly sympathetic to the rioters … making a probe that's credible to the right even more important."
CNN's Chris Cillizza Keeps Blaming Democrats
Perhaps the single worst example of this kind of willful both-sides spin game is CNN's Chris Cillizza — who not only keeps pinning an equal (or greater) blame on Democrats, but also repeatedly shows with his comments that he does know better. On Wednesday, Cillizza published a widely-mocked column declaring that Pelosi had "just doomed the already tiny chances of the 1/6 committee actually mattering."
If you ever held any hope that the House select committee on the January 6 US Capitol riot might produce a report that would help us understand what happened in the lead-up to that day and, in so doing, provide us avenues to keeping it from happening again, you should give up on those hopes now.
No matter Pelosi's reasoning, her decision to reject Jordan and Banks, the two most high-profile Republicans put forward by McCarthy, dooms even the possibility of the committee being perceived as bipartisan or its eventual findings being seen as independent.
But as others pointed out, Cillizza had published another column just the day before titled "Kevin McCarthy's picks for the 1/6 commission reveal his true goals."In it, he had declared that the House minority leader's selection of Jordan and Banks demonstrated that the Republican leader had "zero interest in getting to the bottom of what really happened" on January 6 — further adding that Jordan's presence on the committee would ensure "that it will be a circus" since Jordan is there to "muddy the waters."
And during an appearance Wednesday on CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper, Cillizza acknowledged that "the reason that we're where we are, generally speaking with this, is because Mitch McConnell decided that they didn't want to play ball within a true bipartisan, independent commission. It's the only reason that there's a select committee now."
But Cillizza wasn't alone at CNN in his obtuseness. A news article by reporters Annie Grayer and Jeremy Herb claimed in its second paragraph that Pelosi's decision had "injected new fuel into the partisan fight over the select committee" — as if the open declarations by Jordan and Banks that they would seek to undercut the investigation on partisan grounds had not done that very thing to begin with.
Other Mainstream Outlets Are Giving In
The Washington Post ran an article headlined "Bipartisan House probe of Jan. 6 insurrection falls apart after Pelosi blocks two GOP members" — though in fact, the committee still has a bipartisan membership including Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY). The article also featured a both-sides narrative about Congress' supposed inability to investigate the storming of the Capitol by supporters of a single political leader:
The inability of the House to move forward with a bipartisan committee marks the latest failure in repeated attempts by members of Congress to investigate the first storming of the Capitol in more than 200 years. Both parties have attacked the other as insincere and uninterested in conducting a fair-minded examination of the attack by Trump supporters seeking to overturn the 2020 election.
Similarly, ABC News reporter Ben Siegel wrote an article headlined "Jan. 6 commission collapses after Nancy Pelosi vetoes GOP selections Jim Jordan, Jim Banks." By contrast, Thursday morning's editing of ABC's newsletter The Note cast Cheney as "now perhaps the only person standing in the way of final Jan. 6 takeaways devolving into wearying and meaningless 'both sides-ism.'"
In a discussion on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Associated Press White House reporter Jonathan Lemire detailed the "deeply cynical" actions by congressional Republicans. But then he made the media into just a passive observer, saying that Republican efforts to cover up January 6 were "just going to lead to more and more Americans just shrugging their shoulders and saying, 'Look, this is why Washington is so broken.'"
But mainstream media voices like himself have the ability to prevent that impression from just sinking in among the American public — they don't just have to accept it.
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